Bonnie was here

Since Mom died, I’ve wondered if she might visit me in my dreams, and I’ve hoped that I would sense her presence during sleep or waking hours – either way would be fine. And yet, these wishes conflict with my belief system about death – or at least my expectations about my own death. I think of it as eternal rest, in a comforting way, and as the end of suffering for those who are sick. I like the idea of continued spiritual activity and am open to that existing, but I like evidence, too. So I struggle to reconcile the difference between what I think makes the most sense and what I would like to be true.

A novel I just finished has heightened my interest in having a visit with Mom. It’s a story about a family coping with the death of a young boy, told from multiple points of view – the dead boy, his sister, his parents and his aunt, and even the family dog. The boy is fixated on getting a message to his family to help reduce their suffering. They sense his presence in the house and in their dreams. It’s just a piece of fiction, and it interested me because of its focus on grief. But I found myself wondering each night as I turned off my Kindle if tonight would be the night that I’d see Mom in a dream. And I was consistently disappointed. Until last night.

Now, the brain is still largely a mystery to scientists, and we may never have a firm grasp on what the brain is doing during our dreams. But what we think we know is that dreams are, at least in part, an important function for processing information and sorting memories. They are all about us – not about some spirit out there that wants to penetrate our thoughts. So even as I say I want Mom to visit me in my dreams, what I mean, I suppose, is that I want to be able to remember the Mom of 15 or more years ago in whatever way I can. Dreams might be my best opportunity.

Last night, I had an anxiety dream. This is not unusual. I still frequently dream that I am in graduate school and the term is nearing its end, and rather than completing papers or taking exams, I blow off all of my final projects. Those dreams typically end with me standing in line to pick up a transcript – without ever seeing my grades. But last night, I fretted through a dream during which I was desperately trying to book a flight from New York to home, or from Columbus to New York. My brother Jeff and sister Laura had roles: Jeff gave me subway instructions and Laura had an apartment in New York. But mostly, I remember a solo pursuit of searching for flights, roaming through airports and never reaching my destination. And Mom was there. She didn’t do anything or say anything. She was basically inconsequential to the running story of the dream. But she was there, and something about the urgent need to travel related to her.

I’ve never seriously tried to interpret my dreams, but Mom did. I’ve come across notebooks that she kept at her bedside, and I suspect I will find more as I go through her things. I have a theory, though, about what might be going on in my mind. The new year has inspired Patrick to begin going through boxes in the basement, sorting items to keep, recycle, send to family members or throw away. I asked him to leave the boxes of Mom’s things for me to go through, while at the same time declaring that I am not inclined to do that just now. So I feel guilty about foiling his plans to organize the basement and simultaneously intensely curious about what I will find among Mom’s things. There’s really no excuse to keep avoiding the task. I just have to be ready for the emotions. Maybe Mom showed up in my dream to tell me it will be OK.

3 comments so far

  1. Barbara on

    I didn’t but believe now in visitations. Will talk later.

  2. lesley.austin on

    Hello Emily,
    It’s been such a long time since I visited here, but I happened to visit my old caregiving blog and saw that you had written here recently. I wanted to share my own Mom/dreams experience. I have dreamed about my mom ever since she died, many times a week, until just recently (five years since she died). For a long time, I was still taking care of her in my dreams. Then they became a mixture of watching over her and not (and in these, she was usually very happy and normal and sometimes even unrealistically (for her) bouncy and active.

    I don’t know how often she will appear in the future, now that I seem to have finally been able to let go of the caregiving years (which is what I think all the dreams with her are at least partially about) but her presence in my dreams has been the only sort of “visitation” or real connection I’ve felt since she left. But she is still so much a part of my life, so I am fine with it all.

    I do hope you receive dreams or other visitations and feel close to her again, however briefly. Perhaps through her things? Mom’s personality came back to me most strongly when I read through the journals she kept for my sons last year…chronicles of her visits with them when they were young.



  3. Daniel on

    I am about 19 months out from my mom’s passing. I am only now recently able to talk about her openly. I would say everything takes time and you should do things at a pace your comfortable with. I hope when you are ready to go through your moms things you are reminded of good times and smile…best of luck!!

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